The Fix-It Man and His Wife

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“I can fix that,” Ted states.

This four-word phrase—stolen from the 2003 film, Holes—is a staple at our house. Much like Texas Pete’s hot sauce and duct tape, Ted keeps it handy. It’s a mantra he’s made his own.

And who benefits from it the most? Well, aside from his very fortunate employer, that would be me.

No matter what the problem is — be it a glitch on my laptop or an infestation of mice — Ted’s 95% likely to right whatever’s wrong. In our 10+ years of marriage, I’ve found it doesn’t take much for me to launch him into action.

But, as Yoda might say, wield wisely this power I must.

You see, sometimes my confession of a problem isn’t cut and dry. Sometimes I’m not merely looking for a quick fix. Instead, there’s a sinful edge to my cry for help.

How so? Well, I too often fall prey to the emotional vent.

Okay, so maybe “fall prey” attributes too much innocence on my part. The truth is, I often jump, feet first, into ranting my emotions—good, bad, and sometimes ugly—about a situation or individual to Ted. Why? One, I know he’ll listen and love me regardless of what words escape my mouth. Two, I can almost guarantee he’ll forget 75% of what I’ve said by breakfast the next day.

Except, to put it in a Dr. Seuss sort of way, when he doesn’t.

Those times my bitter words do stick with him, are the times I’m reminded just how much influence I have. My words—especially when they are laced with strong emotion—awake Ted’s fix-it man instincts. While sometimes they provoke biblical correction from him to me, there are instances this has translated into defending me online, confronting a family member or friend, or intervening in a work situation. As any good husband, Ted doesn’t like to see me upset or treated poorly.

I’ve come to realize, though, that I’m never too old to heed the children’s bible song that says, “Be careful little mouth what you say,” especially when it comes to my marriage.

While I don’t advocate spouses keeping things from one another, my own experience has taught me that there are times when it might be wise for me to wait an hour or two until I’ve calmed down. That small amount of time can make a big difference in how I present my problem to Ted—especially when it involves a beef with a loved one.

Even in marriage, there’s a fine line between confiding and venting. And it’s a distinction that’s important to make. I love what Suzanne Gosselin writes:

The term “venting” sounds deceptively therapeutic. The truth is, venting involves voicing frustrations that are often damaging to a person or a cause. By giving ourselves permission to “vent,” we allow words to pour out unchecked, taking little time to consider whether they’re gossip, slander or just good, old-fashioned complaint.

I can think of times when I have listened to a friend “vent” only to walk away with a diminished view of a person or ministry. The enemy seems to use such unrestrained moments to stall and discredit God’s work, and even mire a believer in sin. Proverbs 10:19 says, “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.”

I’m learning—but certainly haven’t mastered (just ask Ted)—the art of asking myself these questions before registering an emotionally-charged complaint to my fix-it man.

What reasoning drives me to vent to Ted? Am I telling him to simply keep him “in the loop”? If so, fine. Or do I hope he’ll get as fired up about the situation as I am? Is my goal to see him join me in my irritation? When it’s the latter, it might be better for me to take some time to calm down before discussing it with him.

If I choose to vent to Ted while I’m still upset, is it going to benefit him? Will it benefit our relationship? And, will it help in the way he views others involved? If the answer is “no,” then maybe I need to hold off talking to him until I’m able to more aptly choose my words.

Words matter. Emily Dickinson wrote, “I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word.” And in Matthew 12:34-37, Jesus stated:

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

When it comes to the emotional vent, I’ve determined to retire my jumping shoes. It may not always come easy to hold my tongue until I calm down, but with the help of the Holy Spirit and my Mr. Fix-It Man, I’m confident that, yeah, “I can fix that.”



About

Ashleigh Slater is the author of the book, Team Us: Marriage Together (Moody Publishers). As the founder and editor of the webzine Ungrind and a regular contributor at several popular blogs and websites, she unites the power of a good story with biblical truth and practical application to encourage couples. She has 20 years of writing experience and a master’s degree in communication. Ashleigh lives in Atlanta with her husband Ted and four daughters. To learn more, visit AshleighSlater.com.


  • http://www.samanthakrieger.com Samantha

    Great article Ashleigh. I am definitely more prone to going off my emotions rather than truth or logic. Thank you for the encouragement to hold my tongue before saying anything unwise.

    • http://www.ashleighslater.com Ashleigh Slater

      Thanks, Samantha!

  • Jewell

    Yes, I do agree with all that stated here. My pain though comes from that fact that my husband is not my Mr. fix it man. Instead, I am not able to vent to him much when I feel I have been hurt or wronged because he always chooses the other side. He has always been harsh with me in preaching at me instead of hearing my pain and helping or just being supportive. I don’t want him to foolishly make calls or do something rash to defend me. I just wish he felt some kind of protective instinct when it comes to me. I sometimes feel very much alone and find I have to have a tough skin and take care of myself always. I know being self sufficient and responsible for ourselves is the healthy mature way to handle things but as a woman sometimes I need a man who loves me, to be on my side and I would like to know his protection is there.

    • http://www.ashleighslater.com Ashleigh Slater

      Hi Jewel, I’m so sorry your husband isn’t supportive. That has to be extremely difficult. I’m praying for you and your marriage this afternoon.

  • Peggy McHugh

    Thank you for the reminder of heart motives and guarding our tongues, even when we feel the need to vent. Proverbs 10:19 and Matthew 12:34-37 are the verses that, if I can actually “hide in my heart”, will give wisdom to any conversation. God’s Word always builds up and encourages!

    • http://www.ashleighslater.com Ashleigh Slater

      Peggy, thanks for sharing Proverbs 10:19 as another verse we can turn to for wisdom in this area!

      • http://www.ashleighslater.com Ashleigh Slater

        Peggy, I just realized that the Proverbs 10:19 verse was in my article too. Ha! I’m laughing at my own comment. It’s been a few weeks since I wrote the article — and I’ve been up since 4:30 a.m. today. Oops. 🙂

  • Veronica Shelton

    Great article! I just vented today about a situation with our children, and this helped me see I really need to examine my heart and calm down before I share something with my husband. The verse that jumped out at me while I was reading this is Proverbs 29:11- A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. Coupled with your words about “venting” this really hit home. Thanks and God Bless!

    • http://www.ashleighslater.com Ashleigh Slater

      Veronica, thanks for being open about how you struggle in this area too. Also, great verse! I appreciate you sharing it here so it can encourage me and others.

  • Talia

    Thanks for being so honest. I know I need to hold my tongue more. Maybe even longer than hours sometimes. My emotions are way too strong, especially when it comes to my husband. He’s Military, and does not show any emotion. God has us together for a reason, I know this. Recognizing my emotions need to be held up and calmed may be part of the reason we are together. Thank you for writing this and including the verses from Matthew. Great reminder.

    • http://www.ashleighslater.com Ashleigh Slater

      Thanks for your kind words, Talia. As someone who also struggles in this area, praying for you today!

  • Cathy Siler

    Aaargh, why couldn’t I have read this before my rant about my certain relatives both last night to my husband and this morning to a friend. This lesson is not new to me, I know I shouldn’t do these things but I always end up doing them anyway. Unfortunately, once the words come out, you can’t put them back in.

    • http://www.ashleighslater.com Ashleigh Slater

      Oh Cathy, I’m so sorry you struggled with this recently. The good thing is His mercies are new every morning — I often remind myself of that. We can keep working on it and getting better.

  • Ron

    I tend to pry when I see my wonderful wife upset..I guess I need to learn how to read the signals and allow that God given calm to to settle in… great writing.. thx

    • http://www.ashleighslater.com Ashleigh Slater

      Thanks, Ron! Sounds like you are a loving husband. 🙂

  • http://www.kentuckymarriage.org Greg Williams

    Powerful article, Ashleigh, not only on the power of words (the ‘dreaded’ tongue) but also the differences between men/women, husbands/wives and how they respond to and for each other! Thanks and God bless in Christ!

    • http://www.ashleighslater.com Ashleigh Slater

      Thanks, Greg!

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